By Will Falk
More than 100 species went extinct yesterday. They were my kin.
Despite this, I have been hearing people talk about how the world is getting better, how progress is being made, and how we have a bright future.
For example, CJ Werleman recently wrote an article for AlterNet titled “Humanity is Becoming Increasingly Less Violent, with One Exception – Religious Violence.” His opening line declares, “Studies demonstrate the world is becoming less violent, and that human warfare is on the decline.”
Last night, after reading Werleman’s article, I opened my fridge and took out a package of tilapia fillets to make fish tacos. I stopped for a moment wondering why I couldn’t find cod or haddock anymore. Werleman’s words filled my head “Humanity is becoming increasingly less violent.”
Werleman bases his statements on a recent Pew Research Center study. He even quotes Dr. Stephen Pinker who says, “Today we may be living in the most peaceful era in our species’ existence” and “In a century that began with 9/11, Iraq, and Darfur, the claim that we are living in an unusually peaceful time may strike you as somewhere between hallucinatory and obscene.”
Pinker is right. This blindness is obscene.
The only way Werleman’s article makes any sense is through a refusal to acknowledge non-humans as beings capable of enduring violence. To accept Werleman’s and Pinker’s statements is to silence the natural world so that we may exploit natural communities. This ignorance is part of the ecocidal disaster we have landed ourselves in.
Would Werleman tell what is left of American old growth forests that have been reduced by 95% by human activity since European arrival that humans are becoming increasingly less violent?
Would Pinker care to look golden toads, baiji dolphins, spix’s macaws, Liverpool pigeons, West African black rhinos, and black-faced honeycreepers – all species driven completely extinct in the last decade due to human activity – and tell them this is the most peaceful era in our species’ existence?
No. Because non-humans don’t count, do they?
So, how about the increasing number of American little girls under the age of 8 who are suffering from chemically-induced puberty over the last 10 years? Or how about the mothers in the world (it is all of them) who now have dioxin – a known carcinogen – in their breast milk? Or is this not violence?
I understand what Werleman is trying to do. He writes at the end of his article, “The findings of the Pew Research Center’s study confirm the importance of secularism…” Werleman is trying to draw attention to the foolishness of religious violence. The way he does it, however, ignores his own religious tendencies. He ignores the human supremacy he is participating in through ignoring violence done to non-humans. Ignoring his own religion, he fails to account for the ecological wars being waged on non-humans and humans alike.
Environmental writer Derrick Jensen explains how this is a problem in an interview in CounterPunch titled “Against Prometheus,” “The fundamental religion of this culture is that of human dominion, and it does not matter so much whether one self-identifies as a Christian, a Capitalist, a Scientist, or just a regular member of this culture, one’s actions will be to promulgate this fundamentalist religion of unbridled entitlement and exploitation.”
Do not rest complacent and safe in the fallacy that human violence is dwindling. It isn’t. To ignore this reality is to participate in a fantastic leap of faith as surely religious as the religious violence Werleman’s secularism claims to save us from.